CyberTech Rambler

September 30, 2010

Name/branding do matters, but content matter most!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:07 pm

To you and me, CodePlex Foundation renamed themselve to OuterCurve Foundation in order to “put some distance” between them and their main sponsor Microsoft. However, their group executive director, in a blog post, says that is not the aim of the renaming. She insists that what had changed is only the name, everything else remains the same.

According to her, they even went as far as getting professional help in renaming. This is all good, but this rebranding exercise looks to me to be just cosmetic. At the end of the day it is the content, in this case, what the foundation does, that will decide on the failure or success of the foundation.

A year since the foundation of the foundation, the only news of any significance is the name change. That does not bore well for the foundation. Looking through their galleries we see nothing but Window’s-based technology in it. Of the six projects featured on the banner,  ASP.Net is present on all but two. For the other two, Windows-only  for one of it (CoApp). Leaving the last one (Network Monitor Parser). Even that is started by Microsoft and has a preference for SQL Server (but presumably it can be easily rewritten for other SQL-based database).

Should we write the foundation off as another stunt from Microsoft? I don’t think we should yet. Let’s give them the benefit of doubt. First year is always hectic and you do have to sort out the management first before playing with the real business of running the foundation as stated in the mission statement. Let’s give it another year.

Good job for not replacing

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:51 pm

IEEE Spectrum run a story on Russian finally have a fully digital Soyuz spacecraft. The point I want to emphasize here is not that they finally gone digital, but they were right in resisting the move to digital.

“If something ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” I am glad the Russian subscribed to this mantra to a fault. The reason for moving to a digital version? The increased frequency of flights due to US Space Shuttle retirement finally means a faster testing turnaround is needed, something their 30+ year old flight computer cannot support. That is a good reason to upgrade.

As spacecraft computer is definitely a mission critical one, and aside from  the potential lost of human lifes, most spacecraft malfunction is seen as an injury to national pride, therefore the Russian has been proceeding really carefully. That  cost money. Besides, being the only nation capable of launching human into space routinely for some foreseeable time to come do add to the pressure. I hope the cautious approach pay off.

On the boarder question of replacing Soyuz: Why do you want to do it? It ain’t broken. It is outlasting the US space shuttle fleet and we see derivative of Soyuz in the form of Chinese manned spacecraft.  Tried and tested technology. Keep it. Unless of  course, you need to hurl more people per launch into space or something equivalent to justify the replacement.

September 28, 2010

Hello LibreOffice. One question: Have you played into Ellison’s hand?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:59 pm

The web is buzzed with news about LibreOffice and the Document Foundation. Alex Brown when as far as saying this is the closest to Community-based open source software as ever got.

Me? On the one hand I am glad that my favorite Office Productivity Application has a future. Equally as glad is the biggest stumbling block to OpenOffice, i.e., the copyright assignment requirement, is finally looking as if it will be removed.

One problem with the new foundation, as with every new foundation, is the worry that development of the suite will be stalled after some initial enthusiasm. We cannot do anything but to wait and see. However, it looks like there are enough heavy weights behind it to be as certain as one can that this will not happen.

Losing the legal protection afforded to StarOffice/OpenOffice by SUN-Microsoft patent agreement is a worry. But lets put it in perspective. It is at least a year or so away. Microsoft knows that the first thing LibreOffice will do if Microsoft makes any move in this direction is to run to the European Commission and file an antitrust suit on Office (again), draining resources it could use to fight the more important battleground of so-called ‘Cloud’-based services.

How about the business dimension? Oracle, under Larry Ellison, is know to be ‘predatory’ towards Open Source. They do contributes to open source, in particular, the Linux Kernel. Other than that, the best I can describe their behaviour is a business’ vulture. Don’t believe me, see the Unbreakable Linux campaign or Ellison’s proclamation that  “If an Open Source Product Gets Good Enough, We’ll Simply Take It.” What Oracle is doing is above board, but they leave a bad taste in the mouth. So I guess Oracle philosophy is the same as mine: Do as little as possible.

I was of the opinion that since Oracle bought OpenOffice as part of its SUN acquisition, now it is forced to contribute back in the form of stewardship of an important project. I have doubts about Oracle’s stewardship, but I think we have to give Oracle time. Note that since Oracle’s philosophy is to “do as little as possible”, isn’t forking the project now simply plays into Ellison’s hand? i.e., allow him to leech on LibreOffice?

What next? Fork VirtualBox and Sun Grid Engine? I know the latter is on the cards. If I were Ellison, I will be glad you are forking it. That allows me to come back later and “take” it.

Finally, note that I do not share Alex Brown’s optimism for OOXML adoption in LibreOffice. They are staffed by the same people who rejected it in the first place.

September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday GNU and 10 years after MS Antitrust Judgement

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:20 pm

It appears that two important days in the history of computing were extremely close  to each other. If you asked me, 27th Sept is the more influential date today. That is, Richard Stallman’s GNU announcement trumphs MS Antitrust judgement.

Why is RMS’s GNU announcement an important one? It is widely acknowledged as the beginning of Free Software. It is something that is still going strong today. I will actually argue that it is getting stronger and stronger every day. While RMS and the other old guards will see it as simply continuing the tradition of sharing software. Most of FOSS supporters today, including me, being brought up from proprietary software, view it as a change from proprietary mindset to a free and open mindset. While we now bath in the glory of free and open source software, let’s not forget the ground work and the hard toil RMS and other ‘old’ guard put in in the Dark Age where they were seen as old dinosaurs compared to the world of new and exciting world of ‘proprietary’ software.

Why is MS antitrust judgment an important one? That is the first of many major setbacks for Microsoft. I will say it is the most important setback. That changed the computing landscape forever. The big thing that it did was to force Microsoft to change its view of the business practice completely. While it is true that Microsoft is still dominant in the desktop market today, without the judgment we will not see vendors dipping their toe into selling Ubuntu pre-installed. On the mobile phone segment we are likely not to see Symbian OS, or Android or MeeGo. In the server front we will see Windows instead of Linux. All the result of Microsoft uses the same tactics it used to become the dominant OS on desktop to grave effect to muscle into these markets. The judgment turned Microsoft from an unstoppable gigantic machine that knows no bound to one gigantic machine that is aware of its limitation.  Sure, the judgment could had done more even in retrospect. By and large, I have to say it worked.

Finally, why does RMS’s announcement triumphs Microsoft’s Judgment? While both Microsoft and Free Software is going strong, the momentum behind Free Software is much stronger. In a few places Microsoft has lose its shine, in others, it looks like a dinosaur. I will say Microsoft looks tired. Therefore in 2010, RMS wins.

However, as IBM demonstrated, a dinosaur can evolve. That ability to evolve is part of Microsoft DNA. There is a lot of bad things we can say about Microsoft, but not evolving is not one. In Microsoft’s evolution, all we see is wrong turns and dead ends currently. However, let’s not forget wrong turns and dead ends is part of the evolution. All it takes is one correct mutation. With all the evolution that Microsoft is trying, the company is not playing the probability game. Rather, it is playing the statistics certainty that one day, the correct mutation will come along.

Who knows, in 2020, I might conclude RMS is the dinosaur.

Bet you don’t know that

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:59 pm

I bet a lot of developers, including me of course, did not know that we have the latitude to replicate programs as discussed in “Developers like their free reign on functionality

Don’t really know whether the reason is my English is not as good as native English even though I lived in UK for the last 14 years, but that title from ContractorUK sounds patronizing. We developers, just like everyone else,  have our fair share of like anything that is free. But given the context of the story, i.e. SAS lose a court battle against World Programming Ltd, the title makes it sounds like we shouldn’t be expecting this or, given that the court upheld WPL’s right to replicate SAS functionalities, shouldn’t be given this”free reign”. I now have the obligation to add that the article itself is not patronizing at all. My believe is the editor is trying to sex up the article, which is unfortunate.

This is an old  case by internet time standard. I remember it from reading the web, including this one. The case was decided in late July and the full judgment can be found here.

Nonetheless, the bottom line is how many people knows that in UK under copyright laws, using manuals to replicate functions is not a copyright violation? I know it sounds like common sense, but common sense is not the same as legally permissible. The icing in the cake is that programming languages, interfaces and functionality are, subject to confirmation by European Courts, not protected by copyrights in the UK.

Does it means we developers can breath easy now? Not a bit. Copyrights law might not bite us, but other laws might. Even supposing that what you do does not violate any law of the land, that is not going to stop the other parties from launching frivolous lawsuit against you to get you to go away or to create obstruction for you.

September 10, 2010

Andriod and DMCA exemption prys open App Store (Updated : May be it’s FTC)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:01 am

Via ZDNet articles (here and here), I learned that Apple not only relaxed its restriction on App Store, it also published its review guideline. Before I even saw this article on PCWorld saying Google applauded Apple’s move, which is a more diplomatic way of say ‘we made you open up’, I am already of the view that Andriod is part of the reason why Apple opened up. The other? Recent DMCA exemption for jail-breaking mobile phone.

One thing I learned about Steve Jobs: While I admires his fluent and flamboyant presentation style and how this has promoted better presentation by other companies including Google, never ever trust what he says. Every word coming out from his mouth is business (trash) talk or screened by his PR people. No Antennagate problem? The general consensus is there was and Apple’s demos failed to prove that there isn’t.  All these talks of trashing Adobe Flash? More like trying to convince you that you should not use Flash. Saying Android adoption i way below iPhones, implying Apple has nothing to fear and App developers should not bother with Android? [To be truely accurate, he did not say Android out loud, but implied it] Well, selective use of statistics by Jobs (and Andriod proponent) to advanced their case. And by (not) mentioning Android, I know his is at least taking Android seriously.

Note that I am glad that Jobs was forced to open up. That is precisely what the market force is for. Jobs is in the industry long enough to know that it was inevitable.

With Flash and third party apps like AdMob, the other reason Apple opened up is definitely the DMCA exception for jail-breaking mobile phone. We always have jail-breaking for iPhone, but the DMCA exception allows reputable company to jail-break iPhone legally. What this means is all companies will create way to partially jail-break iPhone. That is a problem for Apple. For every iPhone owner it will not look as if they had jail-breaked their iPhone. Apple has to a much bigger job of finding out whether a jail break was performed. A lot more phone would had been jail-break-ed as well. That is bad for Apple. Support cost will go sky-rocket. The best way around this? Relax the restriction.

(Updated later the same day)

Wired reported that FTC may have something to do with it. My take is FTC need not be concerned about it. Apple’s product are expensive, high end  and to maintain its exclusivity, will probably remains so for an extremely long time. If Apple wants to built a wall garden, I say good luck to them.  For joe consumer it does not matter because there is no monopoly issue. I would be concerned if Google practice what Apple did with Andriod, or Windows with Windows Phone 7 as they both covers a much larger market segment where monopoly can be an issue.

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